Offspring sex ratio increases with male reproductive success in the polygynous southern elephant seals

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Hassen Allegue , Christophe Guinet, Samantha C. Patrick, Cécile Ribout, Coraline Bichet, Olivier Lepais, Denis Réale


In polygynous species, most dominant males sire a disproportionate number of offspring and dominance rank is assumed to be age dependent. Yet, extreme inter-male competition and high early male mortality prevent most males from reaching a social status that could guaranty a high reproductive success. Alternative reproductive tactics may have evolved to maximize male reproductive success despite a low social rank. One of them, offspring sex-ratio adjustment, may allow males to produce more offspring of the sex that will provide a higher fitness. If traits influencing dominance in males are heritable and if the average fitness of subordinate males is lower than the average fitness of females, we predict that the probability of producing a son would increase with a male reproductive success as its sons would be more likely to become dominant. We tested this hypothesis on southern elephant seals breeding on the Kerguelen Archipelago. Using 530 pups sired by 52 males, we found that the probability of siring a son increases with a male relative reproductive success. Out finding provide new insights on sex ratio variation can be an important tool in managing population dynamics and structure, which has direct implications on wildlife conservation.



Life Sciences


Offspring sex ratio, Polygyny, reproductive success, Mirounga leonina


Published: 2022-12-10 01:04

Last Updated: 2022-12-23 13:27

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CC-BY Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
The authors declare that they have no competing of interest concerning the content of the manuscript.

Data and Code Availability Statement:
Data is available here:

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